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Enginomics in food quality design: the case of shelf-stable fruit-, vegetable- and legume-based foods

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - FOODENGINE (Enginomics in food quality design: the case of shelf-stable fruit-, vegetable- and legume-based foods)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2021-12-31

Today’s food chain is facing a number of challenges, including the increasing demand for food due to the increasing world population, a high degree of food loss and waste, impact of the food chain on climate change, the demand for increased food quality and changing consumer patterns. The inclusion of fruit-, vegetable- and legume (FVL)-based foods in the diet can contribute to the accomplishment of these challenges. These foods have high potential to create products with high nutritional value and low carbon footprint. The transformation of FVL into foods and ingredients by innovative and sustainable strategies is key in creating a more efficient and sustainable food chain. Using an ‘enginomics’ approach will be very useful to study food raw materials, processing, digestion or shelf-life as it integrates novel engineering and data analysis techniques.
To tackle these challenges, the food sector needs highly trained co-workers that are aware of new approaches to transform FVL or relevant side streams thereof into high-quality food products and/or ingredients. The overall objective of FOODENGINE is therefore to provide an extensive training program introducing an ‘enginomics’ approach for food quality design, with focus on FVL. Next to focusing on instrumental analyses, sensorial properties and consumer acceptability will be evaluated.
WP1: Multi-functional ingredients for high quality food product development
The current interest in label friendly food ingredients/products has been the driving force to produce natural ingredients from FVL and seaweed. At present, they are obtained using sub-optimal extraction conditions focusing only on yield without paying attention to the side streams. This WP focused on the sustainable development of functional ingredients for use in high quality label friendly food products.
ESR 2 successfully applied different processing technologies to enhance the extraction process of carotenoids from pumpkins, including possible strategies for the valorisation of the generated side stream as texturizer. ESR 3 focused on the role of glass transition in the stability and collapse of legume-based materials during their processing and storage, clearly showing that state diagrams and stability maps are key in identifying suitable storage conditions. ESR 9 did focus on legume-based ingredients as a protein source in low-moisture food systems and could reveal great potential for product innovation, since interesting structures, aroma, appearance and digestibility patterns could be produced. ESR 13 focused on carrageenan extraction from seaweed in terms of yield and compositional, structural and rheological characteristics, and developed a milder carrageenan extraction method as proof of concept.
WP2: Quality design of fruit-, vegetable- and legume-based foods
FVL are often processed into food products using trial and error thereby underutilizing their full potential. In this WP, an enginomic approach was applied for quality design of FVL-based foods. Quality attributes of interest are flavour, colour, and rheological and nutritional characteristics.
ESR 1 focused on the aroma of sterilized chickpeas during storage and the impact of the microstructure of chickpea flour on rheological and flavour aspects, which showed great potential for different food applications. ESR 4 studied in vitro starch and protein digestion of different legumes leading to strategies for the design of legume-based ingredients with tailored macronutrient in vitro digestion kinetics. ESR5 did focus on the physical stability of oat-based drinks and developed a spectroscopic method to predict colloidal stability of these drinks. ESR10a investigated the impact of product formulation and processing on the sensory qualities of sponge cakes made with pea-based flour/ingredients. The fractionation process clearly influenced ingredient functionality. ESR10b investigated the mechanisms behind colour evolution in a fava bean based drink and possible ways to mitigate the browning development in this beverage application. ESR 11 studied the impact of processing and storage on the colour and flavour retention of strawberry-based products along the food chain. This work showed the importance of adequate raw material selection and proposed an acidification strategy to improve the colour and anthocyanin stability while minimizing aroma changes. ESR 12 focused on the role of processing conditions on functional (foamability and emulsification) and flavour properties of fava bean protein-rich ingredients, which provided a solid scientific basis for the use of fava bean as potential ingredients for food applications.

WP3: Linking quality design to sensory properties and consumer acceptability of fruit-, vegetable- and legume-based foods
Food quality design needs to include aspects of sensory properties, and consumer acceptance and perception in order to increase the consumption of FVL-based products. This WP developed new methodological approaches to link these aspects, and included a cross-cultural study about the understanding of consumer attitudes towards FVL based products.
ESR 6 did focus on the changes in flavour characteristics of vegetable and legume-based products during processing and storage. Using a multivariate approach, instrumental data were successfully linked to sensory measurements of the flavour allowing to predict changes over storage. ESR 7 evaluated various physicochemical parameters and sensory attributes of a vegan tomato soup as affected by processing intensity and storage and successfully linked consumer acceptance with these instrumental parameters and sensory attributes across the shelf-life. ESR 8 did focus on consumer perception determinants for consumption of legume-based products using a large-scale, cross-cultural, cross country survey. The study provided valuable insights about the barriers and drivers of legume consumption and the willingness to replace animal-based products.
As to dissemination, fellows wrote 3 popular press contributions, compiled 3 movies and participated to several outreach activities in different countries. They also presented their research outcomes in 31 conference and 20 peer reviewed publications (so far).
FOODENGINE did successfully train a new generation of scientists in an interdisciplinary, international and intersectoral setting and introduced them to new ways of thinking into the area of FVL-based product and process design, which can be extrapolated beyond the specific application area. Hence, the research findings and fellows trained in FOODENGINE will effectively strengthen the innovation capacity and the sustainable development of the European food (ingredient) industry. By focusing on the transformation of FVL-based materials and associated side stream in food ingredients/foods, the project will largely contribute to the development of future food with minimal climate impact (sustainable and food waste reduction) and maximal health benefits. Given the large-turnover character of the industrial FOODENGINE partners and their extensive network, the impact of the developed science-based approaches on the food industry can be estimated high. Knowledge generated within FOODENGINE will most likely lead to multiple product innovations in the long-term. Since FOODENGINE focuses on shelf-stable foods, these innovative food products will be able to be exposed to consumer markets worldwide.
Research matrices FOODENGINE